09/08/2011 06:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 08, 2011

Romney, Perry renew battle on Social Security

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry renewed their dispute over the Social Security retirement program on Thursday, a day after sparring over the plan's future in a national debate.

Romney's campaign issued an e-mail calling Perry "reckless, wrong" on the popular retirement program, which Perry has called a failure and harshly criticized as a Ponzi scheme.

The e-mail featured a series of photos of Perry with the label "career politician" superimposed over them.

Perry refused to back down from his views during the presidential debate, calling the Social Security program "a monstrous lie." Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, responded that he would never call Social Security a failure.

The Perry campaign issued an e-mail on Thursday headlined "Mitt Romney's Social Insecurity" that highlighted passages from Romney's own book that compared those managing Social Security to criminals.

"In his book, Romney compared Social Security to a fraudulent criminal enterprise, but last night he ran from his position," spokesman Ray Sullivan said. "His evolving and inconsistent position on this important issue is curious, but unfortunately not unusual."

Sullivan said the Texas governor wanted to protect Social Security benefits for retirees and those nearing retirement, but supported an overhaul that would make the system financially sustainable.

"Americans want a leader to speak honestly about the financial challenges facing our nation," Sullivan said.

(Writing by John Whitesides; editing by Anthony Boadle)